Posted by: shelliejelly | November 5, 2008

Not always for me

As I’ve said, there were good things about O. and I. Many good things. I’ve struggled a good deal while trying to parse out my feelings, separate the authentic from the contrived. Looking from a distance, I find I am having an easier time being at least somewhat objective. I no longer have to turn my eyes away when an uglier memory comes dancing across my line of sight. I can relish the good without feeling the urgent pang to get that life back at any cost.

And as I move away, gain my own ground, recover my sense of self and strengthen my resolve, I am beginning to understand exactly what my life with O. cost me. I twisted myself to fit his needs, listening to his subtle requests for changes and, I think, internalizing them for what they truly were — veiled criticisms of who I am.

He’d bring home transparent shirts and uncomfortable shoes with heels much higher than I’d ever wear. He would take me to stores for couples and hover around the rubber pants or tight body suits, suggesting I go and try them on. All of these things, though perfectly acceptable, weren’t me, were never going to be me.

But that didn’t stop O. from trying, needling at me in a way that couldn’t be described as disrespectful, just soft enough to cause me to question myself: Am I too much of a prude? Something in the tone of his voice always made me feel inadequate, as though the choices I was making were strange, out of the ordinary.

Truth be told, I did make an effort that I was never given credit for; I did leave my comfort zone on occasion, trying to satisfy O., telling myself that extending my experience was good for me. I pushed my own boundaries, made adjustments and learned to step outside myself.

Not all bad. I can appreciate being spurred to take risks. Risk is where real growth occurs, after all. Traveling 1,200 miles to attend college when I was 17, moving to Chicago to take a job and teaching Freshman composition classes while in graduate school can all be counted as life-changing, yet risky, endeavors. Risk has most always offered reward to me.

Perhaps the difference is those risks were in my control. I could advance and step back as I saw fit. Or maybe the difference is I just feel more secure when it’s me who is applying the pressure. But the nagging feeling I have is that O. was disappointed in me when I registered discomfort, or refused to consider a suggestion he made.

The result, now, after I’ve turned this relationship over and over in my head, looking at O. and I from varying perspectives and distances, is I feel the room I had to be myself got continually smaller and smaller as the years went by. The more time that passed, the less recognizable I became to myself and the less desirable I became to O. Until one day, he found what he was looking for …

And it wasn’t me.

Strangely, I too found someone I’d missed, someone I love and cherish and find completely charming … and it is me.

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